IAGenWeb Project

Iowa History

       An IAGenWeb Special Project


Join the IAGenWeb Team



Iowa Families

Cobeen Family History
By Floyd Cobeen, 1964
Additions by Evelyn [Fuller] Cobeen 1977
With contributions by: Gaylord and Albin Cobeen
Submitted by: Karen K. Cobeen, 2009

Joseph Cobeen (1847-1923) Family

Peter C. Cobeen, 1861-1952 Peter C. Cobeen, train engineer

Please click on any of the small photos above to view that photo in full size.

“Albert Kubin (1822-1892) was born in Tabor, Bohemia in the year 1822. He married Annie Sheka (1818-1901) in the year 1844. A daughter, Katherine, (1843-1881) a son, Joseph (1847-1923) and twin daughters were born in Bohemia. The twin daughters died while quite young from smallpox vaccination.

[Note: There were no smallpox vaccinations at that time yet]

Albert was a drayman using horses instead of oxen. He was appointed or elected Justice of the Peace which was an important office at that time. He had two brothers who stayed in Bohemia and for some time they corresponded with Albert after he came to America, then all contact with them was lost.

[Note: Edward H. Cobeen, Jr. (1918— ) corresponded with Kubin relatives in Bohemia for some time but those relatives asked him to stop as the country was at that time under the domination of the Soviet Union and Edward’s letters were a cause of considerable concern for the Kubin relatives’ safety]

Through arrangements with a company from New York, Albert, his wife, son and daughter left Bohemia for America in 1854, and while they were crossing the ocean a son Albert, Jr., (1854-1919) was born. Information of the trip from New York to Wisconsin is not available but no doubt was made by train and boat to Milwaukee, then by wagon to Watertown, Wisconsin.

They bought 40 acres of land in Jefferson County north of the town of Johnson Creek through the arrangements made with the New York company. While living here Albert cut wood, hauled it to Watertown to sell and probably farmed the land part-time. On March 14, 1861, twin sons, John and Peter were born, although no record of their birth could be found in 1961.

During the farm transaction Albert Kubin, Sr., being unable to talk or write the American language and the land agents being unable to understand his Bohemian language, they changed the spelling of his name to Cobeen. The records at the Jefferson County Courthouse show deeds and mortgages signed using both name spellings. The books were partly burned in a fire at the courthouse during the 1890s and when the records were rewritten, the original books and signatures were destroyed.

Joseph enlisted in the army at the age of sixteen and traveled through much of the Middle West, being discharged from the army at the end of the Civil War in the State of Texas. He had been through Worth County, Iowa and liking the country, upon returning to Wisconsin, he convinced his family to sell their land and move to Iowa. In 1866 Joseph and his father, Albert came to Iowa, borrowed riding horses and looked for suitable land. Albert bought 80 acres in Section 20, Union Township, for $1.25 per acre, while Joseph bought 80 acres in Section 32 of the same township. They made arrangements with Langschadel to stay with him the next year on his farm a mile east of where Plymouth, Iowa is now located. This farm was later owned by Chehock.

In May, 1867 the Cobeens sold their Wisconsin farm, bought another team and wagon, made covers over the wagon boxes and migrated to Iowa. While crossing the Mississippi River at Prairie du Chien on the ferry, their dog Watch wouldn’t ride but swam the river alongside the ferry boat. This trip no doubt took considerable time as there were no bridges over streams, swamp land and hills were difficult to cross, and there were only faint trails for roads. Eventually they arrived at Langschadel’s where they stayed until they dug a cellar and put a roof over it on their farm, where they lived for two years while building the log house. The logs for the house were cut and hauled from the timber southeast of Plymouth on land later owned by Navratil. However, at this time the towns of Plymouth, Manly, Grafton and Rock Falls were not yet established.

Wheat was the only crop raised the first years. It was planted by hand, the ground being worked with a single row cultivator made of wood with iron shovels, after which a long wooden rail was dragged crosswise over the field to level the ground. The first wheat crops were cut with a cradle scythe, bound into bundles by hand, using straw for bands, then shocked. Albert and his son Joseph bought a hand feed thresher powered by horse power to thresh their own and the neighbors’ wheat crops. The wheat was taken to a mill at McGregor, Iowa to be ground into flour. Charles City was on the way to McGregor, so they bought supplies there.


Cobeen Family History (cont’d)

A few years later they started raising corn which was also planted by hand. Two-row wooden hand-drop corn planters were soon available, these requiring the field to be marked crosswise with a two-runner sled ahead of the planter. When planting the corn, one operator drove the team while the other sat on a small seat in front, tripping the planter when it crossed the marks made by the sled. This was called check row planting and was used in later years when button wire was invented to trip the planter automatically. Soon after the corn planters, riding sulky plows, broadcast seeders, disks and harrows came into general use.

Reapers manufactured by McCormick were first used in the early 1870s. The first ones only cut the grain, and it had to be raked off the platform by hand, picked off the ground and bound into bundles by hand, using straw for bands. The next improvement was the self-raking reaper, followed by self-tying binders which used wire for bands and were made by Adams and French. About 1890 twine was used for bands replacing straw and wire. Beadle and Kelly, John Deere, Klondyke, Badger, J.I. Case, Emerson and Barnes were some of the first manufacturers of farm machinery.

In August, 1886, Albert Cobeen, Jr. and his brother, John, bought a steam traction engine made by J.I. Case from a dealer in Northwood, Iowa which they used for threshing for several years. The grain was stacked in the summer and threshed in the fall. Threshing required an engineer, separator man, water hauler, two or four men pitching bundles onto a table on the separator for the band cutters, two band cutters, one feeder, two or more stacking straw, two measuring and sacking grain, and two grain haulers. Usually sixteen or more men comprised the crew. After a number of years of operating this threshing outfit, Albert and John sold it to Fred Kruger, a resident of Union Township.

In 1881 Katherine died at the age of 37 years and was buried in the cemetery at Plymouth, Iowa. Peter went back to Wisconsin in 1882 to work on the railroad with his cousin Al Sheka and other members of the Sheka family who were railroad men. Peter Cobeen (1861-1952)married and lived in Janesville and Marshfield and was engineer for the Northwestern Railroad Company until his retirement. He lived to the age of 93 and is buried in Janesville.

Joseph farmed several farms in Union and Lincoln Townships, then moved to Oregon, California, Washington and Montana, where he died in 1923 and is buried with his wife at Plymouth, Iowa. The first two children of Joseph and Annie Forman Cobeen (1850-1918) died in infancy and were buried in the little cemetery by Highway No. 9 three and a half miles East of Manly, Iowa.

Albert Jr. bought a farm in Section 13, Lincoln Township, Worth County, farmed it several years, then moved to Manly where he operated a furniture store. He was very adept to fixing the first telephones and automobiles. He drove one of the first automobiles for Dr. C.W. Sanders, an MD who practiced in Manly, later moving to Northwood. Albert, Jr. died in 1919 and is buried in Manly, Iowa.

John Cobeen (1861-1942) stayed on the home farm, adding to it as time and finances permitted. In 1890 he bought 40 acres across the road for $15.00 per acre from Frank Larkin; later he bought 20 acres from the same man, it adjoining the original 80 acres on the south. In 1921 he bought 160 acres for $200.00 per acre from George Smith, this joining the farm on the north. In 1902 he built a new eight-room house on the 40 acres in Section 19, and in 1909 a big barn, then other buildings, most of which are there now. Carpenters and masons who built these buildings were Al Lantz, Holly Reddington, Matthew Kraubetz, James Stroner, Gilbert Peshak and Ralph Cobeen.

During the 1870s the towns of Plymouth, Grafton, Manly and Rock Falls were established. The Milwaukee railroad was built from Austin, Minnesota to Mason City, Iowa, about the same time. About 1902 the rural mail routes were started, the one serving Section 19 in Union Township coming from Manly, Iowa as it does today. Several of the first metal boxes are still in use. Meldrum, Wadsworth, Ralph Cobeen and Hugh Monahan were early carriers. Muddy roads and drifted snow made rural delivery hard work and uncertain.

The event of the first telephone in 1904 made a big change in communication between families and neighbors. The lines were built by the farmers to the office in Plymouth where Jess Carmany was the operator, doing the work alone for some years until he was assisted by Barbara Chladek and Sophia Rezab. Radios were first used in homes during the 1920s, an average set cost $125.00 and was powered by batteries. It was not until 1939 when electricity came into general use.

John lived on the same farm in Union Township for 74 years and saw the country change from unbroken prairie to all cultivation as it is today. There were only a few crude bridges across streams and the roads were only faint trails made by wagons. Rattlesnakes were a common sight and when first plowing the prairie with walking plows, almost every man wore high leather boots to prevent being bitten. Wild


Cobeen Family History (cont’d)

ducks and geese, prairie chickens and quail were plentiful and were a supply of food for the people. From no roads to grades and gravel, then pavement; from oxen to horses; from horses to tractors and automobiles were more of the changes that took place during these 74 years. John died March 13, 1942 and is buried at Plymouth, Iowa.

At the time Albert Cobeen, Sr. and his family were living at Johnson Creek, Wisconsin, Joseph Madera and his parents established a residence in Watertown, Wisconsin, having migrated from Bohemia via New York, lived there awhile, then migrated to St. Ansgar, Iowa. Joseph married Marie Zemanek and with their children moved to Union Township, Section 28. On Sept 18, 1894 their daughter Angelina married John Cobeen, which is shown in the Peshak-Madera-Mahacek family history.

Some of the relatives of Albert Cobeen, Sr. and his wife stayed in Wisconsin, while others came to Iowa. Frank Sheka married a sister of Albert’s (given name unknown) and they were parents of Al, Joe, John and Frank, Jr., Jacob Sheka, a brother of Mrs. Albert Cobeen, Sr. married Rosalind (last name unknown), and they were parents of Henry E. and Josephine Sheka. Josephine married Frank Heiny of Union Township, and Henry married Mary Chada, and their children were William, Edward, Emma, Minnie and Fred.  Henry bought land in Section 22, Union Township, part of the land still being owned and operated by his descendants.

[Note: The author states that parts of the previous paragraph may be in error.]

Throughout this relationship several sets of twins and one set of triplets were born, the first set were the twin girls who died in Bohemia. Others were John and Peter born in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin; Laura, Nora and Theodore Factor, children of Martin and Mary Cobeen Factor; Loretta and DeEtta, daughters of Ed and Laura Cobeen Reindl; Charles and twin brother (name unknown), sons of Peter and Emma Jerg Cobeen; Alton and Arthur, sons of Harold and Elvetta Barnes Cobeen; Kathleen and Kathryn, daughters of Robert and Rosemary Garvey Cobeen; Jean and Jane, daughters of Glenn and Angie Toye Sheka; Shiela and Sherman, children of Clara Leona Adams (daughter of Maude Cobeen) and James Lyle Hambel; Ralph Adams (son of Maude Cobeen) and his wife Elida were parents of twins that died at birth. Grandchildren and Chris and Barbara Cobeen Urbatsch are another set of twins.

Some of the early settlers coming to Worth County before the Cobeen family were Frank Parker, Silas White, Joseph Hunchis, Joseph Molesberry, George Russel, Dan Boughton, Darius Gardner, John A. Heiny, Whitecomb and Henry Sheka families. All of these settled in Union Township.

Schools were almost non-existent before 1870. John and Peter went to school a short time in a stone building located in Section 32. They carried sorghum and bread for their noon lunch and almost always
went barefooted except in the coldest weather. In the 1880s a school was built on the Northeast quarter of
Section 30, about on the border of the William Jirsa and Jim Stroner farms. A two-year high school was operated in Plymouth about 1900. In 1895 a school building was built on the Northeast quarter of Section 19
and Mary Smith was the first teacher.

Of considerable interest is a scale model of the original log house built by Albert Cobeen, Sr. modeled by his grandsons, Gaylord and Leonard Cobeen, using material salvaged from the original house. They made the model house of logs scaled one inch to the foot, complete with stone kitchen addition. They also made models of the furniture used by their grandparents, scaled in proportion with the model house.

Edna Cobeen (1895-1976), Gaylord Cobeen (1900-1991) and Leonard Cobeen (1902-1990) lived in the eight-room house built by their father in 1902. They own and operate the original 80 acres and 140 acres bought later. Floyd Cobeen  (1905-1983), another son of John Cobeen, and his wife, Katherine own and farm 80 acres of the 160 acres bought in 1921, which had been owned at different times by George Russell, I.H. Peshak and George Smith.

This history was written by Floyd Cobeen (1905-1983) in 1964. Information was garnered by several relatives, courthouse records, cemeteries, etc. Gaylord and Albin Cobeen helped furnish a great deal. Some dates and names are missing as no records are available.

This history was revised and several additions were made by Evelyn [Fuller] Cobeen (1918-2008) in 1977. Dates were brought up to date and some corrections made which were in error.”


back to History Index